Loop violin shop owner files suit against anonymous online critic

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Violinist Tom Chiu plays a spare violin at his home in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, July 3, 2007. Chiu, who had a rare Scarampella violin stolen from him on the evening of June 27 after he fell asleep in a subway station, got good news when a Metropolitan Transit Authority Official called him on July 3 to say both his backpack and violin were turned into “Lost and Found.” (AP Photo/New York Daily News, James Keivom) **NYC OUT, NO SALES**

Loop violin shop owner Chunyee Lu doesn’t know the identity of the critic who is calling him a “ripoff artist.”

But that hasn’t stopped Lu from filing a libel lawsuit against the online writer he thinks has taken to the comments section of various online review sites to criticize his shop, Guadagnini Violin, at 407 S. Dearborn.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court identifies the defendant only by the online monikers used on various review sites: TRUTHETELLER1790, TRUTH TELLER and TRUTH T.

All are thought to be the same person, according to Lu’s attorney, James Branit, because the messages were traced to the same IP address – an identifier unique to an online device – used to post the unflattering comments about the shop last January. The postings were at yelp.com, citysearch.com, kudzu.com, and merchantcircle.com.

The writer, under the name “TruthT.,” posted on Yelp: “Would you like to buy a gold mounted tortoise shell bow for $4500 that is actually worth $800 and is, in fact, made of gold-colored metal and faux-plastic shell? Then please go to this shop!”

Under anothername, “Truthteller1790” posted a comment titled “RIPOFF ARTIST.” In the post, the critic states: “Please don’t go to this shop unless you want to be sold something which isn’t what its purported to be for an outrageous price. They also will try to convince you your instrument needs a super expensive repair when it just need an adjustment. Ripoff.”

Branit said the comments were false and misleading and the writer should be held accountable.

“One concern is that something like this can be done by a competitor of ours or, by somebody who is seeking to harm us for whatever personal reason they have,” Branit said. “Society has to balance the injury that’s being done by these anonymous reviews with the interest society has in allowing people to write these sorts of things anonymously.”

Lu has filed a separate legal action to unmask the writer’s identity. Last year, they went to court and asked RCN – which sells bundled cable, phone and internet service – to track the identity of the owner through the IP address, Branit said. That case is still pending.

Guadagnini’s has been in business for 25 years. In the lawsuit, Lu boasts of decades of experience in restoring fine instruments and bows and counts some of the most influential musicians throughout the world as clients.

He is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

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